Tidal HiFi Plus has the best audio quality, followed by Amazon Music Unlimited and Apple Music lossless audio.
There are a lot of music streaming services to choose from, but they are not all created equal. Audio quality is one area in which it can vary greatly. So which one is better? Let’s find out.
In general, streaming music online means that it will not sound as good as physical media or local audio files. High-quality audio requires more data. However, there are some services that offer high quality streaming music.
What do all these numbers mean?
As you read through this article, you will notice that a few different units are used. The main factor is “kbps” (kilobits per second), plus there is a “bit” and “kHz” (kilohertz). Here’s what you need to know.
- kilobits per second: The “bitrate” of the audio file. It’s a similar concept to video resolution – the higher the number, the better the sound. Kbps is mostly used as a standard for standard and compressed audio files.
- 24 bit: Bit depth for lossless file types (AAC, ALAC, FLAC, MQA, etc.) and uncompressed file types (WAV). This measures the dynamic range of the file. The higher the number, the greater the depth. You can listen to it quieter without losing the details.
- kHz: This measures the sampling rate of lost, uncompressed, and uncompressed file types. Essentially, it tells you how many audio samples are captured per second. Larger numbers are not Always Better, but it’s usually a good sign.
Related: What is the missing sound?
Tidal HiFi Plus: 9216 kbps
Tidal came onto the scene in 2014, and was one of the first streaming services to focus heavily on audio quality. It is still one of the best services if you care about sound quality.
There are three tidal levels, two of which deliver high-quality sound. The Tidal HiFi plan is best for most people. It delivers CD quality audio, equivalent to 1411 kbps. The previous step is the “Tidal HiFi Plus” plan, which adds “Tidal Masters” lossless audio up to 24-bit/192kHz, 9216kbps. Tidal supports AAC, ALAC, FLAC, and MQA.
This high quality comes at a price – Tidal HiFi Plus is $19.99 a month.
Amazon Music Unlimited: 3730 kbps
Amazon Music Unlimited is an affordable option for high-quality audio. It’s $10 a month or $9 if you’re a Prime subscriber. Prime Unlimited uses FLAC for High-Resolution Audio, which is up to 24bit/192kHz. For the best possible quality, look for tracks called “Ultra HD”.
The majority of high-resolution audio tracks are labeled “HD”, which has a speed of 1,411 kbps. One advantage of Music Unlimited over some others is that the desktop app is also capable of playing high-quality audio up to 3730 kbps. You are not just limited to your phone.
Apple Music (Lossless): 1411 kbps
Apple Music is a sleepy choice if you’re looking for high-quality audio that doesn’t cost much. Lossless audio can be enabled on the standard $10 per month plan. Apple uses its own codec (ALAC) and AAC for CD-quality broadcasts.
There are a few caveats if you want the best possible audio quality from Apple Music. First, the desktop app is capped at just 256 kbps. Second, the uncompromised sound only works on wired headphones. If you meet the requirements, you will enjoy 24bit/192kHz quality.
What about Spotify HiFi?
You may have noticed that one of the biggest names in music streaming has yet to be mentioned. Spotify Premium’s highest audio quality setting is only 320 kbps. However, in early 2021, the company announced “Spotify HiFi”.
As of October 2022, Spotify HiFi has not been launched. When that happens, Spotify claims that it will “deliver CD-quality music and lossless audio format to your device and Spotify Connect-enabled speakers.” This usually means 1411 kbps and 24 bits/192 kHz.
Spotify has not shared whether this will be included for Premium subscribers or if it will require a new plan. Regardless, the leader in music streaming is far behind in this area.
Related: How to get the most out of Spotify Premium
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